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Mowbray won't make the same mistake again with Woodgate
HAVING played every minute of league action so far, Tony Mowbray hopes Jonathan Woodgate can play a big part in Middlesbrough’s season, but admits he has learned from his mistakes and will be careful not to burn out his experienced defender.
The former Real Madrid defender even played in Boro’s opening game of the season against Leicester City despite the death of his father, Alan, shortly before.
When Woodgate returned to the Riverside last summer, Mowbray admitted it was unlikely that the 33-year-old would feature every week due to his previous injury problems, especially given the Championship’s grueling schedule of two, sometimes three games a week.
The centre-back played in just under half of Boro’s league matches, but Mowbray admits he let temptation get the better of him in the early stages of the campaign, which ultimately led to Woodgate missing more games in the second half of the season when his side were struggling.
“We hope Woody can play a bigger part,” Mowbray said. “The temptation last year was when he was doing well early season and we kept him playing and yet I think his body broke down.
“Saturday to Saturday at this moment it’s proving fine for him. As we move forward let’s hope we can keep that routine. We do have some midweek games coming up soon which will be a huge test and we are looking at that situation.
“Seb Hines isn’t too far away from being fit. We’ll assess the situation and see how Woody comes through the next few weeks.”
With Woodgate feeling no ill effects so far, Mowbray has had the luxury of fielding the same back four in every league game.
Captain Rhys Williams also appears to be over his injury problems, while George Friend has already shown he is getting back to his best with a man-of-the-match display against Wigan last weekend.
Mowbray was criticised for changing his starting XI on a weekly basis last term, but when it comes to his back four the Boro boss insists he will only rotate if he is forced to through injury.
He said: “In an ideal world you keep the same back four and yet around this time last year Rhys did his ankle and Jonathan was in and out as he wasn’t able to play three games.
“He’s finding it okay at the moment playing Saturday to Saturday, which is good. George is starting to find his form from when he first arrived, which is great and Frazer (Richardson) has looked very steady.
“As I’ve tried to reiterate, and some people might not believe it, I don’t change the team just for the sake of it. Particularly the back four, if I find a back four that works and looks solid I’ll stick with it. I’d have to say despite losing the two goals at Wigan and they were both very avoidable in it wasn’t as though anyone had worked hard to cut us open, but the unit itself was very solid and they handled Wigan very well. Let’s hope we can find consistency in selection, particularly in the defensive areas of the pitch, but that means players staying fit.”
Whether the Boro boss will be able to field the same defence tomorrow rests on the fitness of Frazer Richardson. The new signing limped off in the early stages against Wigan and Mowbray revealed the right-back will be assessed today.
“He trained the last few days with the medical department. The plan is to assess whether he’s had any reaction to his training and whether we feel he is going to be ready. If we’ve got any doubts we will leave him but the boy is quite positive and it’s a lot better than it was when he had to come off.”
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